Located at the intersection of two major highways with heavy traffic, all restaurants, but especially the fast-food outlets in Ponoka are some of the busiest businesses of the town and residents are particularly keen that food safety and hygiene are kept at the top of the priorities of the restaurants.
Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health, says anyone who suspects that a business is not taking adequate care of its facility in terms of food safety and hygiene should report the matter to Alberta Health services without delay.
When handling complaints, AHS’s goal is to follow-up on a call within two days.
“We do follow-up complaints as fast as we can,” said Achebe.
Restaurants are not the only area AHS inspects. Anytime public safety is involved such as public pools, rental housing and even splash parks, AHS will inspect.
“The bottom line is if you see something going wrong just let us know,” said Achebe.
Any restaurant looking to start up a business must ensure all health requirements have been met with Alberta Health Services (AHS).
In the central Alberta area, AHS have conducted 20,000 inspections; some from routine visits and others from specific complaints, says Dr. Achebe, medical officer of health.
Entrepreneurs looking to open up a restaurant, or business that serves food, need to follow specific guidelines from AHS and a food safety inspector will conduct an initial inspection prior to the restaurant opening up. The purpose of these visits is for public health.
“What we’re doing here is to protect the health of the public,” said Achebe.
AHS has three goals:
• To stop the spread of illness
• Ensure compliance of standards and regulations
• Provide an opportunity to educate the public and food service facilities of those safety standards
“When we do inspections, we look out for various things like: proper food handling, temperature control, cleaning, proper food storage, hand washing and hygiene, cross-contamination and control,” Achebe explained.
Other factors such as having proper commercial dishwashers that can handle a specific load are important as well as storing the proper amount of potable water, regular fridge and freezer temperature checks and regular maintenance are also important to inspectors. “These are the key things that we look out for.”
Routine inspections are conducted one to three times per year depending on the risk category. A convenience store may not have the same risks such as a restaurant handling raw meet and fresh vegetables, said Achebe; cross-contamination has a higher risk level.
When asked how a person can tell if a restaurant is clean, Achebe said most people do not go into the kitchen to check but clean surfaces may be one indication. Sometimes workers can be seen conducting safe practices such as washing their hands or covering their hair in the kitchen.
AHS can be contacted at 1-877-360-6366 or online at http://www7.albertahealthservices.ca/restaurant-inspections/ for complaints or more information.